As a youngster, some of my fondest memories involve buddies and myself biking or walking to the park with fishing poles and tackle boxes in hand. More often than not, bait was nightcrawlers and other small worms and grubs dug from our parents’ gardens. It wasn’t until True Value — now Ace Hardware — moved in that we could go grab a full box of worms or the coveted bait of choice — fresh minnows, the favorite food of big slab crappie.
The fishing was good, sometimes great, and we’d make the couple-block trek home with coolers or stringers filled with perch, crappie, bluegill and the occasional big bullhead or two. Then South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks introduced the king of all freshwater fish when they dumped hundreds of hungry northern pike into a very small pond. The toothy fish quickly devastated the rest of the population, leaving only stunted fish that rarely ventured a foot out of the cattails. That said, we had way too much fun targeting the pike, and they were hungry and happy to oblige.
These days, GF&P has taken a different approach, and it’s working wonders on the quality of fishing, which has suffered up until the past year or so. Following the release of 100 juvenile channel catfish in 2014, a mix of 300 juvenile and fingerling largemouth bass were introduced last year. The state’s website has yet to update the fish stocking report for this year, but the new mix is paying off. Not only are Tea residents catching catfish and bass, but perch, bluegill and crappie have also made a return. Whether that's due to the spring stocking or lack of predation from northern is still unknown.
Tea resident Jason Wegehaupt and his two children Brady and Taylor, ages 11 and nine, are one of many local families enjoying quality time at the local fishing hole.
“We were playing at the park one day and saw some people fishing there and we were watching them and we got to talking [and] they told us,” Wegehaupt said. He points to that precise moment that his kids were hooked (thankfully not literally, I’ve seen and had it happen
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